Genres: R&B, Jazz, Pop/Rock, International
Styles: Soul, Jazz-Pop, Neo-Soul, Urban, Contemporary R&B, Adult Contemporary, Oceanic Traditions, Hawaiian
British jazz vocalist Malia was born into a family of mixed African and English heritage in the small East African country of Malawi, which borders Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. Growing up with only the two local radio stations (one in the native tongue, the other in English) and her father's Beatles-heavy record collection, Malia was not exposed to a large variety of music. She did not develop the intense desire to sing and create music until her early teens, when for political reasons her family was forced to relocate to London. In this new land of plenty, Malia took great interest in the rich musical landscape that surrounded her, immersing herself in the dance-oriented new wave style that dominated the English music scene. Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday soon came into her world and transformed her life and world view, encountering influential black voices for the first time. She set her mind to becoming one of them one day. After finishing school Malia took work as a waitress while she organized a band to accompany her, singing ballads and jazz standards in bars and clubs around London. She came to a stylistic turning point in a New York cafe when she heard a pop-jazz track sung in French that had been produced by Berklee School of Music graduate Andre Manoukian. Malia was so entranced by the enticing mix of pop and jazz sensibilities that she contacted Manoukian to solicit his help. The pair fell in love with each other's musical ideas and potential, and set to work on Malia's debut album, Yellow Daffodils. Though the release features English lyrics, Malia gained enormous notoriety among French audiences. Her subsequent releases, Echoes of Dreams (2004) and Young Bones (2007), found favor among jazz fans across Europe thanks to Malia's unique, smoky vocal timbre and sensitive interpretation. Her records have climbed international soul and jazz charts as she maintains a busy touring schedule, appearing on some of the continent's most important stages.
- Evan C. Gutierrez (www.allmusic.com)